This is my version of baked aubergines cooked in tomato sauce and Parmesan.
I never get sick of aubergines. They are hearty and versatile and a good staple for a vegetarian diet. Aubergines are brilliant for dips, tagines, stews like ratatouille and of course cooked simply on their own. I often just brush them with olive oil and then sprinkle with my home grown thyme and cook on a hot griddle. They are also delicious baked in the oven and then skinned and mashed with some good olive oil and garlic (for a tasty dip). Talking of good olive oil – my friend recently brought round a bottle of the oil from her family’s olive grove in Jordan. How lovely is that?
Aubergines come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and in the summer I was buying big bagfuls of baby aubergines from Croydon’s Surrey Street market. I found them irresistible. You can also get long thin aubergines streaked with white, and varieties which are barley purple at all. Then there are the deep purple varieties they sell so cheaply everywhere these days. Check out the big packs of ‘Basics’ aubergines from Sainsbury’s or from Aldi where they are only around 60p or so.
There are many different recipes for melanzane alla parmigiana. Some recipes omit the mozzarella but I think pulling hot stringy cheese from the plate is part of the pleasure. I tend to make the tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes in the summer and tinned in the winter. I add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree if I’m using fresh tomatoes.
The best melanzane parmigiana I ever had was in Palermo, Sicily on holiday in the summer two years’ ago. This was my first time to Sicily and had wanted to visit for a long time. I was really looking forward to a trip to Palermo but when we arrived it started raining heavily and then became torrential all day – I have never seen so much rain. We were quickly completely drenched so instead of sightseeing we took cover in a restaurant for a long, comforting lunch and a few glasses of red wine.
This recipe serves two on its own or four if you pad the dish out with lots of crusty bread and a crisp salad.
- 2 large aubergines
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 tins of tomatoes (or around 800g fresh tomatoes, skinned)
- 2 balls of mozzarella
- 100g freshly grated Parmesan
- Handful of fresh basil
- Teaspoon of dried oregano
- Teaspoon of caster sugar
- Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- Olive oil for cooking
- Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 190c.
- Cut the aubergines lengthways, brush with olive oil and cook on a griddle pan or under a grill. Put to one side.
- Make the tomato sauce by heating the olive oil and cooking the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and cook for about 15 minutes. I blend the tomato mixture as I like a smooth sauce, but this is optional.
- Layer an over proof dish with some of the tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines, then the grated Parmesan. Repeat the layers and finish with torn chunks of mozzarella, the breadcrumbs and a final sprinkling of Parmesan.
- Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until hot and bubbling.